Horatio Lloyd Gates (26 July 1727 – 10 April 1806) was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga – Benedict Arnold, who led the attack, was finally forced from the field when he was shot in the leg[1] – and was blamed for the defeat at the Battle of Camden. Historian George Bilias describes Gates as one of "the Revolution's most controversial military figures" due to his role in the Conway Cabal which attempted to discredit and replace George Washington through a whispering campaign, the ongoing historical debate over who should receive credit for the victory at Saratoga, and Gates' actions after the defeat at Camden.[2][3]


[hide]*1 Early career

    • 1.1 Seven Years War
  • 2 American Revolutionary War
    • 2.1 Saratoga
    • 2.2 Conway Cabal
    • 2.3 Camden
    • 2.4 Board of Inquiry
  • 3 After the war
  • 4 Legacy
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

[edit] Early careerEdit

Horatio Gates was born, Maldon, England, to Robert and Dorothea Gates, on July 26, 1727. His father was a minor government official and his mother was a housekeeper in the house of the Duke of Leeds in Leeds, England. His mother's association with Leeds brought the family connections to the upper classes; Horace Walpole was his godfather and namesake.[2] An only child, his parents purchased for him a lieutenant's commission in the British Army in 1745. He served with the 20th Foot in Germany during the War of the Austrian Succession, and later was promoted to captain in the 45th Foot in 1750. He sold his commission in 1754 and purchased a captaincy in the New York provincial troops. One of his mentors in his early years was Edward Cornwallis, the uncle of Charles Cornwallis, against whom the Americans would later fight. Gates served under Cornwallis when the latter was governor of Nova Scotia, and also developed a relationship[vague] with the lieutenant governor, Robert Monckton.[4]

[edit] Seven Years WarEdit

Further information: Great Britain in the Seven Years WarDuring the French and Indian War, Gates served General Edward Braddock in America. In 1755 he accompanied the ill-fated Braddock Expedition in its attempt to control access to the Ohio Valley. This force included other future Revolutionary War leaders such as Thomas Gage, Charles Lee, Daniel Morgan, and George Washington. Gates did not see significant combat, since he was severely injured early in the action. His experience in the early years of the war was limited to commanding small companies, but he apparently became quite good at military administration. In 1759 he was made brigade major to Brigadier General John Stanwix, a position he continued when General Monckton took over Stanwix's command in 1760.[5] Gates served under Monckton in the capture of Martinique in 1762, although he saw little combat. Monckton bestowed on him the honour of bringing news of the success to England, which brought him a promotion to major. The end of the war also brought an end to Gates' prospects for advancement, as the army was demobilised and he did not have the financial wherewithal to purchase commissions for higher ranks.[5]

In October 1754, Gates married Elizabeth Phillips and had a son, Robert, in 1758. Gates' military career stalled, as advancement in the British army required money or influence. Frustrated by the British class hierarchy, he sold his major's commission in 1769, and came to North America. In 1772 he reestablished contact with George Washington, and purchased a modest plantation in Virginia the following year.

[edit] American Revolutionary WarEdit

When the word reached Gates of the outbreak of war in late May 1775, he rushed to Mount Vernon and offered his services to Washington. In June, the Continental Congress began organizing the Continental Army. In accepting command, Washington urged the appointment of Gates as adjutant of the army. On June 17, 1775, Congress commissioned Gates as a Brigadier General and Adjutant General of the Continental Army. He is considered to be the first Adjutant General of the United States Army.

Gates' previous wartime service in administrative posts was invaluable to the fledgling army, since he and Charles Lee were the only men with significant experience in the British regular army. As adjutant Horatio Gates created the army's system of records and orders, and helped with the standardization of regiments from the various colonies. During the siege of Boston he was a voice of caution, speaking in war councils against what he saw as overly risky actions.

Although his administrative skills were valuable, Gates longed for a field command. By June 1776, he had been promoted to Major General and given command of the Canadian Department to replace John Sullivan. This unit of the army was then in a disorganized retreat from Quebec following the arrival of British reinforcements at Quebec City. Furthermore, disease, especially smallpox, had taken a significant toll on the ranks, which also suffered from poor morale and dissension over pay and conditions. The retreat from Quebec to Fort Ticonderoga also brought him into a power struggle with Major General Philip Schuyler, commander of the army's Northern Department, which had jurisdiction over Ticonderoga. During the summer of 1776 this struggle was resolved with Schuyler being given command of the department as a whole, while Gates had command of Ticonderoga and the defense of Lake Champlain.

Gates spent the summer of 1776 overseeing the enlargement of the American fleet that would be needed to prevent the British from taking control of Lake Champlain. Much of this work eventually fell to Benedict Arnold, who had been with the army during its retreat, and was also an experienced seaman. Gates rewarded the alacrity with which Arnold attacked the problem by giving him command of the fleet when it sailed to meet the British. The American fleet was defeated in the October 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, although the defense of the lake was sufficient to delay a British advance against Ticonderoga until 1777.

[edit] SaratogaEdit

When it was clear that the British were not going to make an attempt on Ticonderoga in 1776, Gates marched some of the army south to join Washington's army in Pennsylvania, where it had retreated after the fall of New York City. Though his troops were with Washington at the Battle of Trenton, Gates was not. Always an advocate of defensive action, Gates argued to Washington that, rather than attack, Washington should retreat further. When Washington dismissed this advice, Gates claimed illness as an excuse not to join the nighttime attack, instead traveling on to Baltimore where the Continental Congress was meeting. Gates had always been of the opinion that he, not Washington, should command the Continental Army, an opinion supported by several rich and prominent New England delegates to the Continental Congress. Gates actively lobbied Congress for the appointment. Washington's stunning successes at Trenton and Princeton left no doubt who should be commander-in-chief. Gates was sent back north with orders to assist Schuyler in the Northern Department.

But in 1777, Congress blamed Schuyler and St. Clair for the loss of Fort Ticonderoga, though Gates had exercised a lengthy command in the region. Congress finally gave Gates command of the Northern Department on August 4. Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull Gates is in the center, with arms outstretchedGates assumed command of the Northern Department on August 19, and led the army during the defeat of British General Burgoyne's invasion at the Battle of Saratoga. While Gates and his supporters sought to place the credit for the victory and Burgoyne's surrender with Gates, the actual military actions were directed by field commanders such as Benedict Arnold, Enoch Poor, Benjamin Lincoln, and Daniel Morgan. Because of his reluctance to attack the British army directly, Gates was known derisively by Arnold as "Granny Gates." John Stark's defeat of a sizable British raiding force at the Battle of Bennington – Stark's forces killed or captured over 900 British soldiers – was also a substantial factor in the victory.

Gates is prominently depicted in the center of the painting of the Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga by John Trumbull,[6][7] which hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. By Congressional resolution a gold medal was presented to Gates to commemorate his victories over the British in the Battles of Bennington, Fort Stanwix and Saratoga. Gold and bronze replicas of that medal are still awarded by the Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association in recognition of outstanding service.[8]

Gates proposed following up Saratoga with an invasion of Canada but the proposal was rejected by Washington.[9]

[edit] Conway CabalEdit

Gates attempted to maximize the political return on the victory, particularly since George Washington was having no present successes with the main army. In fact, Gates insulted Washington by sending reports directly to Congress instead of to Washington, his superior officer. At the behest of Gates' friends and delegates from New England, Congress named Gates to head the Board of War, a post he took while keeping his field command — an unprecedented conflict of interest. Again, through the efforts of Gates and his friends in Congress, Congress at this time briefly considered replacing Washington as commander-in-chief with Gates. The failure of the Conway Cabal ended the political maneuvering. Gates resigned from the Board of War, and took an assignment as commander of the Eastern Department in November of 1778.

In July of 1780, Gates was involved in a minor skirmish with Loyalists in southern Connecticut, the center of the American textiles trade, for which Britain was a major export market. No casualties were reported, though stores of Loyalist livestock were destroyed, depriving the British of those provisions.

[edit] CamdenEdit

In May of 1780, news of the fall of Charleston, South Carolina, and the capture of General Benjamin Lincoln's southern army reached Congress. They voted to place Gates in command of the Southern Department. He learned of his new command at his home near Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia), and headed south to assume command of the remaining Continental forces near the Deep River in North Carolina on July 25, 1780.

He led continental forces and militia south, and prepared to face the British forces of Charles Cornwallis who had advanced to Camden, South Carolina. In the Battle of Camden on August 16, Gates' army was routed, with nearly 1,000 men captured, along with the army's baggage train and artillery. Analysis of the debacle suggests that Gates significantly overestimated the capabilities of the inexperienced militia, an error magnified when he lined those forces up against the British right, the traditional position of the strongest troops. He also failed to make proper arrangements for an organized retreat. Gates' only notable accomplishment in the unsuccessful campaign was to cover 170 miles (270 km) in three days on horseback, headed north in retreat. His bitter disappointment was compounded by the news of his son Robert's death in combat in October. Nathanael Greene replaced Gates as commander on December 3, and he returned home to Virginia.

[edit] Board of InquiryEdit

Because of the debacle at Camden, Congress passed a resolution requiring a board of inquiry, the prelude to a court martial, to look into Gates' conduct in that affair. Always one to support a court martial of other officers, particularly those with whom he was in competition for advancement, notably Benedict Arnold, Gates vehemently opposed the court of inquiry into his conduct at Camden. While he was never placed in field command again, Gates' New England supporters in Congress again came to his aid in 1782, when Congress repealed its resolution requiring a board of inquiry into the Camden disaster. Gates then rejoined Washington's staff at Newburgh, New York. Rumors implicated some of his aides in the Newburgh conspiracy of 1783. Gates may have agreed to involve himself, though this remains unclear.

[edit] After the warEdit

Gates' wife Elizabeth died in the summer of 1783. Gates retired in 1784 and again returned to Virginia. Gates served as vice president of the National Order of the Cincinnati, the organization of former Continental Army officers, and president of its Virginia chapter, and worked to rebuild his life. He proposed marriage to Janet Montgomery, the widow of General Richard Montgomery, but she refused. In 1786 he married Mary Valens, a wealthy woman from Liverpool who had come to the colonies in 1773 with her sister and Rev. Mr. Bartholomew Booth, to operate a boy's boarding school in Maryland.[10]

Gates sold his Virginia estate and freed his slaves at the urging of his friend John Adams. The aging couple retired to an estate on northern Manhattan Island. His later support for Jefferson's presidential candidacy ended his friendship with Adams. Gates and his wife remained active in New York City's society, and he was elected to a single term in the New York state legislature in 1800. He died on April 10, 1806, and was buried in the Trinity Church graveyard on Wall Street, though the exact location of his grave is unknown.

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